Genesis Lights of Hope benefit marks 15th year this December
By Lori Szepelak
WESTFIELD Genesis Spiritual Life Center’s meadow will be lit up with hundreds of luminarias as the 15th year of the Lights of Hope benefit comes together on Dec. 5.
Sister Elizabeth Oleksak, S.P., founder of Genesis, noted during an interview with Reminder Publications that the setting provides a “healing element” for visitors that evening.
“We love having Lights of Hope here,” Sister Oleksak said. “The meadow will be like a forest lit up, which will provide a healing and comforting place for those who visit.”
Lights of Hope, featuring hundreds of luminarias, allows area residents to honor a loved one who has or has had cancer.
“The luminaria bags are only $5, which makes it an affordable event everyone can participate in,” said Cheryl Gorski, program director, CHD Cancer House of Hope, the beneficiary of the event. The Cancer House of Hope is affiliated with the Center for Human Development.
Gorski noted that the luminarias mean a “great deal” to those who purchase them.
“It’s nice to see how important this event is to so many people,” she added.
Due to the ongoing construction in the downtown area, Lights of Hope will celebrate its second year on the grounds of Genesis on Mill Street.
“Lights of Hope is a solemn, moving event and Genesis offers a safe environment with ample parking,” Gorski said.
One of the many volunteers who make the event a success year after year is Nicole Nelson of Westfield, according to Gorski. For Nelson, she volunteers in memory of her mother who passed away after a bout with cancer.
“I lost my mom and I’ve lost a lot of people to cancer,” Nelson said. “Lights of Hope is very special to me and Genesis is a spiritual place that makes it a nice fit for what we are doing.”
Gorski has set a goal of raising $9,000 this season and noted that area residents are already reserving their luminarias. The deadline to reserve a luminaria is Nov. 30 since they all must be filled and names need to be written on each one.
On the evening of Dec. 5, local students will assist volunteers in ensuring the luminarias are in alphabetical order so that each one can be easily found by the person who purchased it. All luminaria are filled at Stanley Park on Dec. 2 by Nelson and a legion of volunteers.
“It’s also nice to see people take their luminaria bags home to re-light them over the holidays,” Gorski said.
She noted that luminaria will be available the evening of the event so everyone will still have an opportunity to purchase them.
Lights of Hope gets underway at 6 p.m. and the Westfield High School Choir will perform, which makes the event “even more meaningful,” Gorski added. Visitors will also be treated to Genesis’ homemade hot chocolate.
For persons seeking a way to honor someone who has been affected by cancer, gazing at one’s luminaria may help one’s heart be “healed by the silence,” Sister Oleksak said.
Area residents interested in purchasing luminarias honoring and remembering loved ones can mail a check or drop off cash to CHD Cancer House of Hope, 86 Court St., Westfield, MA 01085. For more information, call 562-0110.